Reflecting On Adam Smith’s The Wealth Of Nations, 245 Years Later

The book wasn’t the last word on Economics and Smith didn’t get everything precisely right (who does?). A century later, for example, Austrian economists thoroughly demolished the labor theory of value which Smith (and the classical school) had mistakenly embraced.

Still, Smith’s insights were profound. He blew away the notion that society would be chaotic without the dictates of potentates, postulating a spontaneous order that arises from people constructively pursuing their self-interest. “In the great chessboard of human society,” he wrote, “every piece has a principle of motion of its own, altogether different from that which the legislature chooses to impress upon it.”

A chapter devoted to Smith in my book, Real Heroes: Inspiring True Stories of Courage, Character and Conviction, notes,

The ideas of Adam Smith exerted enormous influence before he died in 1790 and especially in the 19th century. America’s Founders were greatly affected by his insights. The Wealth of Nations became required reading among men and women of ideas the world over. Until his day, no one had more thoroughly and convincingly blown away the intellectual edifice of big government than the professor from Kirkaldy. A tribute as much to him as to any other individual thinker, the world in 1900 was much freer and more prosperous than anyone imagined in 1776.

Any country that produced an enlightened giant like Adam Smith should be immensely and forever proud of it. But alas, the cancel culture has its knives out for him. In the land of his birth—Scotland—and in one of the cities where he wrote and taught—Edinburgh—a few misdirected malcontents are thinking about modifying or removing a statue of him on the Royal Mile.

Why? Not because Smith advocated slavery (he was a fierce opponent of it), but because he simply noted that the evil institution is historically ubiquitous.

How ironic! Small-minded, virtue-signaling activists—who will likely accomplish in their entire lifetimes but a fraction for liberty what Smith bestowed upon us in a single volume—want to bring the great man down. Shameful (and shameless) doesn’t begin to describe just the thought of it. Pray that such iniquity does not materialize.

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